Unvarnished infotainment, cross-purposed and more suitable for casual browsing than focused research.

FRIEND OR FOE

THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT ANIMALS PEOPLE LOVE TO HATE

An album of scary, dangerous, or revolting creatures—all of which have better sides.

For 10 animals, from rats and roaches to sharks and wolves, Kaner presents in turn a selection of destructive or disgusting habits, then beneficial behaviors. Though negatives tend to be more vivid than countering claims, readers who swoon over gross bits will find plenty of passages like “How does a vulture cool off on hot days? It poops on its legs,” and “It takes much less feed, land, and water to raise a pound of cockroach meat than it does to raise a pound of beef.” Her titles are thrilling too: “Leeches Suck.” “AAH! SHARKS!” “Vultures Deserve Better Press.” Along with being sometimes unconvincing (“Marvelous Mosquitoes”), most of her observations are generalized or, like a suggestion that a certain mosquito-eating spider might be the “solution” for malaria, facile. Moreover, her invitation to make a “friend or foe?” choice for each animal sets up a series of false dichotomies that she then confusingly (if rightly) dismisses abruptly with a concluding explanation that “Animals Are Just Doing Their Thing.” Anderson adds a comical tone to the enterprise with cartoon illustrations of beasties bearing human expressions and uttering such quips as “Howl’s it going?” or “I’m glad pie-thon isn’t on the menu!”

Unvarnished infotainment, cross-purposed and more suitable for casual browsing than focused research. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77147-064-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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